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'Legacy' London Car Hire Companies Lawyer Up Against Uber 239

An anonymous reader writes with The Stack's report that: The London Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) has engaged a major firm of lawyers to present its case against Uber in the UK capital, citing lack of continuous insurance checks, Uber's tax avoidance practices and even 'loitering' Uber drivers as reasons to impose regulations which would eliminate Uber's competitive advantage in London. A lot of Londoners like to have that competition around, though.
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'Legacy' London Car Hire Companies Lawyer Up Against Uber

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  • fair competition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by azalin ( 67640 ) on Sunday October 04, 2015 @05:37AM (#50655211)
    While I do think taxi prices are too high, I still have a couple of problems with the uber approach. The main reason for the high prices are quite a lot of regulations imposed on classic taxi companies. Uber wants to take a piece of the cake without following the rules everyone else has to abide.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      The cab companies/cabbies are mostly scared of one main thing. They invested a massive amount of money to by their exploitation licence. The main regulation that they are concerned with is this quota. The rest of the regulations are generally nonsense or exist to prevent gross fraud. If Uber is given the green light these exploitation licences become valueless. In some municipalities these licences have traditionally sold for the million dollar zone. There are even banks that specialized in loaning money fo
      • The only cabbies that have spent large sums of money for their "exploitation licence" would be the members of LTDA - who are not in LPHCA - as it isn't cheap to train someone to have a map of London in their head that can adjust to cater for temporary things like roadworks and congestion.

        Thus the black cab drivers who you try to target (there isn't such a thing as the medallion scheme here) have nothing to do with this story. They are completely separate and have their own axe to grind against Uber, it bein

      • The free market won't resurrect people killed by unregulated drivers. I don't think much of London taxis or the stupid 2-tier taxi system the UK has but the laws didn't just appear out of nowhere. The market shouldn't be used as an excuse to put people at risk.

      • Once you remove the quota, and the natural competition drives the price low, most of the honest intelligent taxi drivers will exit the profession. There is always demand for honest people looking for decent wages. At that point very few honest people will be driving the taxi. They will be honest only to the extent the honesty could be thrust on them.
        • At that point very few honest people will be driving the taxi. They will be honest only to the extent the honesty could be thrust on them.

          That is how the world generally works now. Honesty is not rewarded by the public, so it's scarce. The Uber model includes ratings for drivers, so if they are assholes repeatedly, they'll get kicked out of the system... unlike actual taxi drivers, who appear to be a specially protected class.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Their PR arguments also hold no water. Let's assume that all their arguments about safety, quality, crime, and so on are all true. Why should we not have the choice anyway to pick who drives us? I am happy driving a friend to a location, they are happy to drive me, people drive themselves, yet somehow cabbies have twisted this into licensed uber drivers as being the best way to get yourself killed. So the regulations that largely exist for all drivers such as not being drunk, having insurance, having a safe car, having a licence, all make sense for normal drivers; so why don't they make sense for Uber drivers. Does the uber app somehow make them worse drivers?

        You might say pretty much exactly the same about cooking, but I still think it's fair to hold professional food serving businesses to a different standard than me inviting a friend over for dinner. As for insurance, the rates reflect the risk and letting commercially operated cars pool with your average commuter unfairly shoves their risk over on us. I don't see a problem with Uber being required to check if you are properly licensed to transport strangers for money before you're allowed to participate. Thi

        • You might say pretty much exactly the same about cooking, but I still think it's fair to hold professional food serving businesses to a different standard than me inviting a friend over for dinner.

          Right, the way it works is that if you run a restaurant you need to be licensed, and the city or county will become cross with you if you feed many people anywhere but inside of a restaurant. So if you feed enough of your friends at your house on a regular basis, the city is going to want you to get inspected and licensed. The premise is public safety.

          But wait, taxi drivers are at more risk from their fares than the other way around! Arguably, it's passengers who should have to pass a background check, and

      • The cab companies/cabbies are mostly scared of one main thing. They invested a massive amount of money to by their exploitation licence. The main regulation that they are concerned with is this quota.

        I don't believe that London taxi licenses are the same as many US cities. In London, I don't think that there is a limit on taxi licenses, but the license is difficult to obtain. In order to get a taxi license, a driver must pass a test on "the knowledge". Taxi drivers are required to know every street and th

        • GPS is shit compared to a London black cab driver for finding the best routes. even i can find better routes than a sav nav
      • its been shown that you can upload a chinese restaurant menu to Uber as proof of insurance so i think Uber should have insurance to cover any driver that games the system and gets a customer injured. they should be barred until they stop avoiding taxes as well
      • But again; even if uber is terrible and dangerous, why should we be treated like infants and not allowed to make up our own minds? Also continuing with the uber is a death trap; then other companies could come along in a free market and offer safer drives. People would probably choose them instead. Free market. Just like all the other vendors in London who don't have quotas. Restaurants, lawyers, dentists, clothing stores. All of those businesses would probably love a quota eliminating new competition. But it wouldn't serve the public at all. But if this monopoly had never been set up and competition had always been allowed we would not be having this discussion and Uber would be having trouble making any headway in London, it would simply be one more competitor in a competitive market.

        As someone who works in a place with minimal cab regulation and thus maximum competition I welcome Uber's entry. I've gotten cabs with drivers who don't even know the local area, cabs with dash warning lights beyond just check engine, and fares weren't cheap. All it takes is a car and a sign asking taxi to be a cab; plus a sticker indicating you've paid the airport tax (gov't wants their cut) so Uber is a step up.

    • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Sunday October 04, 2015 @07:59AM (#50655511) Journal

      The main problem which i have with uber (and why i dont use it - remark: i live in Germany) is that normally the licenses which you have to have to operate a taxi service work in two directions: you are allowed to do business in a give narea, but you also have to, even if certain times are not profitable for you.

      And yes i appreciate that if i missed the last possible train connection at 1am in a town with 20000 people living there, still there usually will be a taxi at the station within 15 minutes, which takes me the last 20km for the same price.

      In a world where we allow uber to cut away the ham (e.g. daytime trips to hotels/business) for taxi businesses, tey would clsoe down operation in such areas, and the price for this ride probably would rocket in the sky, and uber would say "oh we just enable communication between customer and provider", and the driver would say "oh, i am a business, and it did cost me 100 Euros to get here".

      The point is simple: in areas whit a lower density of cars driving at night, the customer is at a systematic disadvantage (since he can not choose the provider, but the provider can easily choose the customer because 20km by car over an nearly empty road may be very fast).

      So be careful what you wish for.

      • What you say is very valid, but that is exactly how free market operates.

        Free market is like evolution, it does not plan ahead, it gets stuck in local minima.

        In a city for someone hoping to open a new bar, established areas would need very heavy capital. With a taxi system without surge pricing such a bar owner would strike new ground and may be eventually that area would grow and thrive as another established area. This is how load balancing would work in free market. But with Uber and surge pricing, i

        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          Markets, like all freedoms, come with restrictions for the protection of the commons. To put this into sensible terms, I'm free to kill you - I don't have a right to do so. You can not have a perfectly free market, it can not and will not happen. If you want one the provision the infrastructure and other assets. I'll eagerly watch to see how it works out for you.

          We take all of our freedoms and put them into a communal pot (we call this society) and, from that pot, we withdraw our rights and leave enough to

        • by EvilAlphonso ( 809413 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .todhsals.ihsuem.> on Sunday October 04, 2015 @11:33AM (#50656295) Journal

          So if Uber takes hold, the bar owners will convince government to provide a Post Office equivalent of a taxi service. Price will be low, but it will be a single bus that takes all the patrons from that area, travel all around the town and drop them in their homes over the next six hours.

          Actually such a service is already provided in Luxembourg, for example. On weekend nights, you have a free bus service from the party areas to the residential areas and the train station. It didn't require Uber to take hold, it was just done to reduce the amount of accidents caused by drunk driving. It's very successful.

    • Terrible headline (Score:4, Insightful)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Sunday October 04, 2015 @12:01PM (#50656405)

      Legacy? come on. how about License regulated taxi drivers lawyer up against illegal gypsy cabs.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Sunday October 04, 2015 @06:02AM (#50655251)
    What I have read in the independant studies is that Uber drivers with their little GPS systems are just as good cost wise and in most cases drivewise as a full on London Cabbie who has studied "The Knowledge". The key is that while on some journeys the cabbie will be more proficient the extra cost more than evens it out with Uber. Except that because the Uber navigation system is getting better and better even that gap is narrowing. Also most journeys are pretty straightforward. You go out to main road A drive until near the destination, and then pull off main road A to the destination.

    Then Uber brings the whole modern technology to bear. The app, the information feedback, etc. So about the only real thing left for the cabbies is to defend their monopoly seeing that they have potentially no natural advantage and thus no defence moored in reality. The problem with bending the rules of reality is that eventually they snap and the further and longer you bend them the worse the recoil will be. So at this point they might be able to modernize, take the hit on their monopoly value, take a hit on their wages and survive. But if they hold uber at bay for a number of years the flood will come in and will wash them away. Quite simply the harder they push back the harder reality will try to find away around. For instance a new batch of politicians might sweep into office with the promise of eliminating their monopoly. Thus on Monday they are safe and on Tuesday there is pretty much only Uber standing.

    But the key argument that is used is that because the government granted them this monopoly it is the governments problem if they are ruined by taking it away. This holds no moral water; they thought that they were buying a licence to be able to ruthlessly exploit the people of London. They thought wrong. I have zero pity for what comes next.
    • "ruthlessly exploit"? Are you off your head?

    • Taxis are a quasi public service in most regions. The gov't requires taxi drivers to take fares that are virtually impossible to do profitably. Either the fare is so expensive that no rider could afford to pay (Think $300 to get home) or there are no drivers because there's so few fares at that time that the fares don't cover operating costs. You could argue that this is the way it should be, but only if you ignore that reality you like so much. How many of these late night fares are from folks that would o
  • Against the law (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Sunday October 04, 2015 @06:02AM (#50655253) Homepage Journal

    Haven't we had this discussion multiple times before?

    Yes, Uber gives you a lower price.
    Yes, it creates competition.
    Yes, they act against almost all local laws.

  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Sunday October 04, 2015 @06:06AM (#50655255) Journal

    Before anyone starts with the whole "medallion" thing, that's not a thing in London. If you want to publicly tout for business (i.e a black caps), you have to do "the knowledge" which is a very extensive and tough test for knowing your way around without a stanav. And no: having a sat nav is not remotely equivalent to actually knowing your way around

    To be a vehicle hired otherwise (phone, internet), anyone can set up with the appropriate insurance and a few other bits and bobs. It's not hard and uber is not in any way "sticking it to the man". But surprise, surpirse, the other cabbies get pissed off when, despite the rather liberal regulations which never blocked uber from existing in London, uber still likes it's old unfair competition things like flat-out doing illegal stuff and avoiding tax.

    At this point, it's known that uber will do anything for a buck, illegal or otherwise. If you use uber especially somewhere like London, you're part of the problem.

    • by ioErr ( 691174 )
      I'm not defending Uber, but what, as a passenger, do I gain by having the wetware in the taxi driver's head do the path-finding instead of the software on his computer? Even if the software is inferior right now it will continue to improve, unlike humans, and if the Uber driver takes longer to get me to where I want to go then I will continue to use his wetware competitors.
      • "I'm not defending Uber, but what, as a passenger, do I gain by having the wetware in the taxi driver's head do the path-finding instead of the software on his computer?"

        It's been said that "two people should be able to enter into their own contract" as a defense for Uber in a same free-market environment.

        But it is also a well stated fact that in such free-market environment, contracts need to be perfected by the two parties being in full knowledge of the transaction. Taxis, by its own nature, make very di

        • by ioErr ( 691174 )
          I'm not asking why we have regulation. I'm asking why the Londoners have regulation that requires taxi drivers to memorize the entire city map.
        • You've fatally misunderstood Uber's business model and why they do what they do.

          Uber is not anti-regulation and does not engage in a "race to the bottom" where they ignore the fact that some cab drivers are crappy.

          Rather, Uber is the regulator and prevents the race to the bottom in entirely different and more modern ways. Instead of using the (literally) steam-era approach of forcing cab drivers to memorise street maps, they use GPS. Instead of setting high and constant fees with mandated pickup to make pri

    • Before anyone starts with the whole "medallion" thing, that's not a thing in London. If you want to publicly tout for business (i.e a black caps), you have to do "the knowledge" which is a very extensive and tough test for knowing your way around without a stanav. And no: having a sat nav is not remotely equivalent to actually knowing your way around

      No, it's better. Google knows where traffic is stacked up in real time. If there's been an accident and a lorry is across all lanes someplace, Google will know about it before a driver with "the knowledge" — it doesn't mean you're bloody omniscient. If you were, you wouldn't go into the cab business, because you'd be able to see that self-driving cars are about to eliminate it entirely and this is just a big wankfest to grab the last few years. Like you'd be an idiot to go into trucking right now, as

      • No, it's better.

        Yes better, because it's better to have a bunch of people staring at satnavs rather than at the road. Brilliant idea!

        Google knows where traffic is stacked up in real time.

        My goodness! That's so completely new that I bet no one has thought about broadcasting real-time traffic information before over this thing I like to call "the radio". In fact the only part of london I ever knew by name as a kid was "the Hangar lane Gyratory" because whenever the radio was on, the traffic update would ment

      • No, it's better. Google knows where traffic is stacked up in real time.

        During my evening commute in SIlicon Valley, the "real time" data shown in the Google maps app on my Android phone is useless. It's so inaccurate that it provides no value.

    • Before anyone starts with the whole "medallion" thing, that's not a thing in London. If you want to publicly tout for business (i.e a black caps), you have to do "the knowledge" which is a very extensive and tough test for knowing your way around without a stanav. And no: having a sat nav is not remotely equivalent to actually knowing your way around

      I was going to make a before someone brings up the black cab's "The Knowledge" thing, but you bet me to it. London has always allowed these things called minicabs. You call a number, a minicab arrives and picks you up. These cab are completely different from Black Cabs, which are the only ones that can be hailed on the road. The minicabs drivers have not passed "the knowledge" and do pretty well. They are ubiquitous in london, as much as the black cabs.

      Uber is a minicab that uses an app instead of a phone

      • Black Cabs, which are the only ones that can be hailed on the road

        One of the complains is that the uber drivers are touting for business, which means they're illegally trying to be the equivalent of black cabs.

        • That is the complain from the black cabs, no one else in any news article (before today) has claimed this. I prefer to take this with a pinch of salt, no thanks.

    • "At this point, it's known that uber will do anything for a buck, illegal or otherwise. If you use uber especially somewhere like London, you're part of the problem."

      Well, said. Look at the comments: doesn't it look suspicious that the percentage of anonymous cowards here seems to be well over average?

      The point is: yes, probably taxi regulations are suboptimal and, yes, Uber wants to throw all them off, disregarding if motivated or not, for their own profit, which shouldn't be tolerated.

      There's, though, a

      • The point is: yes, probably taxi regulations are suboptimal and, yes,

        I don't think they are. London's had a thriving taxi and minicab business for years.

        There's, though, a point that I don't see usually highligthed and it is that, in the end, as Uber says once and again, it is not Uber the once driving the cars. But, still, governments are going against Uber and only against Uber, which shows it's not only Uber the one being greedy here, also governments.

        How is the government being greedy here? If uber dri

        • "Finally, will your opinion on the above if uber drivers are ruled to be employees?"

          Will... change, I suppose you mean. My opinion wouldn't change but, since the situation changes it would also change the output required from my opinion: there wouldn't be a private contractor, therefore the only entity that have to be looked after would be Uber.

          Note I'm not against Uber drivers being contractors -as long as they are not hidden hires, or employees. In any case, proper legislation applies.

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      You know what pisses me off? Half these Uber-defending-jackasses self-identify as Libertarians. It's because of this that I can understand the confusion on the part of sane people everywhere. I'm truly at a loss and really do think it's time to start with the new moniker. People, people are the damned problem. Give them something good and they'll shit on it, set it on fire, or otherwise ruin it. I guess I can live with that. It's when they complain and throw a temper tantrum afterwards, blame others for the

    • Yeah but in my experience the Knowledge seems to get us very little in practice. I have never been able to jump in a cab and not had to provide directions at some point during the journey. Capped off recently when the driver was Tweeting on his dash-mounted phone while driving down Euston Road. I don't like Uber, but the taxi drivers don't help themselves either.

  • No one seems to have picked up the one thing that city hall seems to be worried about, which is real, which is congestion.
    In a free market the streets would be extremely full of taxis (broadly defined) hanging around hoping to be closest at hand when someone needs transport, to the point where this is a significant nuisance for everyone else. It is for this reason (at least originally) that most cities limit the number of vehicles allowed to pick up
    "street hail" custom. In London (and probably elsewhere in

    • No one seems to have picked up the one thing that city hall seems to be worried about, which is real, which is congestion.
      In a free market the streets would be extremely full of taxis

      No. London already has congestion charges. It costs you money to do that. Right now they have exceptions for hybrids, hilariously that includes full-size land-yacht S-Class hybrids and the like, a small car has better mileage and emissions than they do but still has to pay congestion charges if it's not an EV or a hybrid.

      • by shilly ( 142940 )

        The hybrid exception is precisely why Uber drivers drive Prius cars.

        The congestion thing is absolutely real. It is a complete pain in the arse around Paddington, Marylebone, etc.

  • Someone help, my buggy whip business is being threatened by these new-fangled "automobiles"!!

    -Joe Oldguy,
    Buggy Whips Ltd.

    • You talking like Uber invented something new.

      A better analogy would be a drug dealer complaining that the police keep arresting him and taking him out of the school yard. Those draconian laws protecting kids from drugs and all.
      • A better analogy would be a drug dealer complaining that the police keep arresting him and taking him out of the school yard. Those draconian laws protecting kids from drugs and all.

        Relax, bud, it was just a joke. :)

        Personally I'm not a big fan of Uber. There are parts of the Uber concept that I like and parts I don't, but mostly it makes me uneasy. The predatory pricing, the race to the bottom, the lack of accountability, etc etc.

        Regulatory bodies and laws exist for a variety reasons, both good and bad, and I'm wary of anyone or anything that tries to bypass or shortcut them.

        If the idea could be implemented with a little more accountability/regulation then I'd be more comfortable with

    • Moron.

      It's not like you haven't been able to hail AL cabs by app for years. The problem is uber drivers acting like idiots and loitering and not having proper vehicle checks and insurance and uber actively facilitating this and not paying its fair share of tax.

      This isn't about buggy whips disappearing this is like uber acting like a bunch of crooks.

      • Moron.

        It's not like you haven't been able to hail AL cabs by app for years.

        Yes, I know, and as I said to another responder, "Relax, it was just a joke." Try not to get your panties in a twist. (But feel free to call me all the names you like, I find it invigorating. Trust me, lots of nicer people than you hate me.)

        • lots of nicer people than you hate me

          I don't hate you. I just think the comment was moronic. Apparently it was a joke. Because parroting something people you disagree with wholesale with no indication or even hints of sarcasm apparently counts as a joke.

          Well, OK. Not a moron then, just really bad at jokes. I guess that's an improvement.

  • Listen, this is the way that the society you live in was built. People come up with laws to make the society better for everyone and people are expected to follow those laws. If you don't like those laws you are free to fight them using the same process. One such set of laws are the ones governing the taxi industry. They ensure there aren't too many cabs on the road so that it doesn't become dangerous, people can access cabs fairly in the eyes of the law even if they are challenged in doing so, and that
    • Listen, this is the way that the society you live in was built. People come up with laws to make the society better for everyone

      No. I mean, yes, sometimes. That's nice, when it's true. But often, laws are there for other purposes. Sometimes those purposes are at cross-purposes with progress. In some places, taxis are pretty good, so I understand why people would defend them there. In a lot of places, taxis are very crap, and the system is clearly not serving the people. In at least some of those cases, it clearly was not intended to serve the people.

      and people are expected to follow those laws.

      Oh sure, some people. You and I small fries, we are expected to follow those laws. T

      • It makes no difference the quality of the taxi's that are in existence. If the laws aren't making taxi's you like, then, again.. Why is this so hard to understand... HAVE THE LAW CHANGED. It doesn't give anyone carte blanche to break the law.
        • If the laws aren't making taxi's you like, then, again.. Why is this so hard to understand... HAVE THE LAW CHANGED.

          So if the people propping up the bad law have more money and influence, then it just never gets changed, and society never moves forwards, that's your plan? That's a shit plan. It's way worse than civil disobedience.

          • So now you're saying you don't trust the government and they only cater to people with money and power. Yet you want the company to be able to just ignore laws that may be protecting you in ways you don't even fathom. Wow you're very confused.

            Again, if you don't like the philosophy of the government, change it. I believe there was an honest core of people in the occupy movement that were honestly trying to. Where were you when occupy was going on? Start your own thing that is better than the occupy m
        • by tippen ( 704534 )

          It makes no difference the quality of the taxi's that are in existence. If the laws aren't making taxi's you like, then, again.. Why is this so hard to understand... HAVE THE LAW CHANGED. It doesn't give anyone carte blanche to break the law.

          Given the prevailing stances on /., I have to ask if you say the same thing when it comes to copyright laws? Did you pay for all of the music and movies on your computer/phone? Or were you with the rest of the /. crowd saying "screw the man!11!! they shouldn't charge so much!"

          • I agree when they close down people who are making a profit from piracy. I believe that is all I need to say.
            • by tippen ( 704534 )

              I agree when they close down people who are making a profit from piracy. I believe that is all I need to say.

              In other words, you don't really believe that the law is the law and you should have it changed rather than breaking it when you don't think it should apply to you.

              • I didn't say that. People download knowing it is illegal, they should not be surprised when they are prosecuted according to the laws that are in place.
  • ... it is a minicab company.

    If Uber was a ride sharing company then the sharer would share - which means not charge at all, or at most charge for half the petrol used.

    As soon as you charge more than that you are not sharing anymore, you are a taxi (do the knowledge in London) or a minicab (stick to the regs) or illegal.

    I can see no problem with most of the regs - you want to know the driver can drive, has not been disqualified, passes basic pnc checks (not a wanted criminal), the car is safe and has proper

    • by shilly ( 142940 )

      But there's a reason why TfL is considering doing that -- it prevents ply-for-hire, which is reserved for black cabs. See my post below about pricing.

  • I think it might be helpful to point out exactly how customers might be disadvantaged by Uber in the London taxi market in relation to pricing.

    The pricing problem passengers have always faced in taxis is that unscrupulous operators will overcharge after the fact, ie once the booking has started.

    So the London system is set up to provide customers with a choice between two fundamentally different pricing systems, while ensuring they don't get ripped off:
    1. Black cabs have a meter, with rates regulated by law,

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